Learning the Lingo of Social Security

November 2, 2017 • By

Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Last Updated: August 19, 2021

two men chatting Is Social Security a topic in your conversations these days? Are you familiar with the lingo used to describe Social Security benefits, or does it sound like a new vocabulary to you?

Social Security employees strive to explain benefits using easy-to-understand, plain language. But if a technical term or acronym (an abbreviation of the first letters of words in a phrase) that you don’t know slips into the conversation or appears in written material, you can easily find the meaning in our online glossary

Social Security acronyms function as verbal shorthand in our financial planning conversations. If you’re nearing retirement, you may want to know what PIA (primary insurance amount), FRA (full retirement age), and DRCs (delayed retirement credits) mean. These terms involve your benefit amount based on when you decide to take it.

If you take your retirement benefit at FRA, you’ll receive the full PIA (amount payable for a retired worker who starts benefits at full retirement age). So, FRA is an age and PIA is an amount.

What about DRCs? Delayed retirement credits are the incremental increases added to the PIA if you delay taking retirement benefits beyond your full retirement age. If you wait to begin benefits beyond FRA — say, at age 68 or even 70 — your benefit increases.

Once you receive benefits, you get a COLA most years. But don’t expect a refreshing drink — a COLA is a Cost of Living Adjustment, and that usually means a little extra money in your monthly payment.

Knowing some of these terms can help you fine-tune your conversations about Social Security.  If one of those unknown terms or acronyms does come up in conversation, you can be the one to supply the definition using our online glossary. Sometimes learning the lingo can deepen your understanding of how Social Security works for you. Discover more on our website.

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About the Author

Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications

Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications


  1. Donna

    Hey my son is 25years old has cancer had brain surgery. Is now on ssi in his past he is still on probation any was they put him in jail for
    none payment to the court’s . Now my son goes in for three months and three week’s . Over none payment to the court’s he gets 770.00 he in jail and he still got his ck his rent light water and so on were being paid grate .Nov 9 throw Mar 5 he gets out . No the biggest thing I have the jail New he was sick with cancer mental illness never had his treatment after paying his bills money was give to him to get the things he needed now been reading on people that go to jail they stop everything ok .they say the get food and a place to do there time and they will take care of all medial .Dam this is bad nothing was done to help him. He goes to the ssi office to let them no I am out. Took the letter they stop his ck for April what the hell this out there his sick had to move in with me his mother .I’m on ssi said very low money we do get help for food they say we get to much .WHAT! I get 741.00 take 500.for rent 211 water and lights now .how in the hell are we going to eat \live?what can we do .

  2. Bonnie K.

    Received text and recording stating from SS admin. and that legal enforcement action is filed on my social security number for criminal activity and before I get directed to Fed courthouse, I should call them back at 240-397-5173

  3. Frances B.

    Someone please call me to make appointment at ss office in Charlotte no
    803 9172229
    Frances Burdette

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Frances, thank you for using our blog. Unfortunately, and because of security reasons, we do not have access to personal records in this blog and cannot assist you. To make an appointment, call our toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

      Keep in mind that you do not need an appointment to file for most benefits or appeal a disability decision. You can file for the following benefits online:
      Medicare; and

  4. Sutton T.

    I like how you said that knowing some of these terms can help you fine-tune your conversations about Social Security. I have been looking into disability insurance. Thank you for the tips on learning social security lingo.

  5. Melany D.

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  6. steve o.

    what does social security for insurance mean?

  7. Jesse B.

    My SS increased by $24 this year which is more than has in all previous years put together. My rent, food, and power bill also went up, and I have a car note. So much for the increase. But for the 1st time, I got a letter from the food stamp office saying that my stamps were being cut because I received unearned income. They were talking about the SS increase. So now I am sitting here half starved. They cut over 3/4ths of my stamps. Now I am down to $43 per month in stamps. I am 72yrs old and have some physical issues. I know complaining won’t help because nobody of authority cares, but is there a department I can talk to and see why this happened. It simply is not fair to those of us that are elderly, or to anyone else that has to depend on SS to survive.

  8. Ellen K.

    My request: how do I satisfy your request for a certified letter of appointment. What is it and where do I find it? Is it a form and if so what is the number? The amount of his final check is approximately $1,300. Please let us know asap as you given us a date we need to satisfy your request.
    Ellen Kissane

  9. Ellen K.
    We recieved our submission for my deceased brother Social Security last payment and you are asking for copy of certified letter of appointment. What is this and how do I satisfy your request? We paid all the funeral expenses and need this money. Please call us at 727-688-7050 or send me an email explaining what to do.
    Ellen Kissane
    Brothers Social Security was *** – ** – ***
    date of death Oct. 9th 2017
    We searched the site to no avail!!!

  10. Melody M.

    Are you able to draw ssi and ssd at the same time I already draw ssd and I want to know if I can draw ssi to help with my income

    • Ray F.

      Thank you for your question, Melody. Depending on the amount of your Social Security benefit and other income and resources, you might qualify for both Social Security disability benefits (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The SSI Federal Payment Standard for an individual in 2018 is $750/month.
      To see if you qualify for SSI benefits, call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213 and speak to one of our agents. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Generally, you will experience a shorter wait time if you call later during the day.

      • Donna f.

        Jesse . My name is Donna from TN I have read what you wrote and I’m sorry I am going through the same thing this pay they gave us made things worse in my life because when they did everything went up .me and my son that is sick with cancer . Will have to pick ,eat or ,rent,. Had to let my car go last year it’s made it ten times harder on us . And it’s sad to say this is the USA. More less it’s we the people get out dated food go hungry and pray we make it to the next mouth . The government and the rich people don’t care about people like us they need people like us to keep them up. Soon it’s all going to come to an end I believe in my Lord Jesus. That’s what keep me going . Thing that can what like this dam wall fix the American people first That wall help the low income families .And it’s sad only they need to look at the mess they have done to American people .kids having kid people living off GOV BIG drug problem in the US thanks government . . I worked went to school worked hard in my life .I’m sick and was badly injured and I can’t work on ssi and I paid taxes like every one . So the mean man gets by with not wanting to show us his taxes and lives a dam good life because people like us have to pay for it. We go hungry . But they need that wall. Thing go up we pay or go with out . These are are sad times my God help help us all. We have to for give the thing that are GOV and are present do to the unfortunate ones .good luck we all need it.

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